Domaine des Etangs, a former childhood home turned hotel offers guests a more playful take on traditional French hospitality.
When people come here, their capacity to be amazed by simple things is renewed, and they become a little like children,” says Garance Primat, the Geneva-based hotelier, spa doyenne, real-estate maven, and daughter of the late French mogul Didier Primat. She’s speaking of Domaine des Etangs, her family home that recently opened as a hotel–one that wouldn’t be out of place in a
Charles Perrault fairy tale.
One cool mornings, the mist rising from the ponds gives the turreted eleventh-century chateau an undeniable romance that runs through the 2,400-acre estate’s 34 accommodations. The other-world vibe is due in part to its pastoral location 280 miles southwest of Paris in the relatively unknown Charente-Limousin region, amid seven small etangs (French for ponds).
Spend time here and you realize that this place upends the enduring but tiresome French idea that luxury has to be taken seriously. Yes, the linens are D. Porthault and the food by an alum of New York’s Eleven Madison Park, but the hotel is playful, banning the rote rituals and prim service of other French country house hotels. Want breakfast in a rowboat on one of the ponds? Done. Prefer to spend the day painting in the gardens? Someone will find you a stool. A vast children’s game room fills the chateau’s attic, and catered picnics are held in a forest glen. “I hope guests rediscover spontaneity here,” says Primat. Mais bien sur. How could you not? (rooms from $550)